Arsenal’s Saka leads second-half charge in win vs. Newcastle

Arsenal persevered in the face of a stubborn Newcastle United side to secure a comfortable 2-0 win in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium.

A handful of missed opportunities in the first half had many believing this wasn’t going to be the hosts’ day, only for Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to score two goals in 10 second-half minutes to set the Gunners on their way to three points that put them level with fourth-placed West Ham United.

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Positives

The patience in Arsenal’s build-up play was evident throughout, and they’ve clearly worked hard at maintaining that composure over the full 90 minutes. The fact that they had over 80% possession at one stage of the game says it all, with their biggest success coming whenever they drove through the spine of Newcastle’s team, constantly keeping them guessing with quick passing movements.

Negatives

Mikel Arteta’s men were far too happy to welcome any pressure from Newcastle, and that could have cost them if the Magpies were a bit more precise in front of goal. The aerial threat provided them with a constant headache from the long balls over the top to the physicality shown by Newcastle’s forwards — which is something that needs to be addressed when playing bottom-half clubs, in particular.

Manager ratings out of 10

8 — The best thing that can be said for Arteta is that he’s committing to the rebuilding project, with his starting XI being a shining example of that. Between the youth players and the experienced heads in the team, there was a clear blend in place, and after a tense start to the second half, he didn’t allow his side’s head to drop, which shows real character. In terms of substitutions, the Spaniard wanted to push for more goals even after taking the lead, which is precisely the mentality they need to possess if they want to push for the top four.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Aaron Ramsdale, 8 — A world-class save that was tipped onto the bar from a Jonjo Shelvey shot ensured that Ramsdale added another entry to his 2021-22 highlight reel.

DF Takehiro Tomiyasu, 8 — His timing in making challenges was matched by his determination when pouring forward, ending in a delightful chipped assist for the second goal.

DF Ben White, 7 — Kept his head, was confident in possession and rarely put a foot wrong in yet another impressive display in red and white.

DF Gabriel Magalhaes, 8 — The Brazilian wasn’t afraid to get in the trenches and tidy up any messes in defence, especially in his duels with Wilson.

DF Nuno Tavares, 7 — He’s got tricky footwork, he’s fast, he tracks back and he notched up a nice assist for the opener, but Nuno Tavares really needs to stop shooting from distance.

MF Thomas Partey, 6 — Was caught chasing shadows on a few too many occasions but didn’t make any glaring errors in the early kick-off.

MF Albert Sambi Lokonga, 7 — Lokonga was there to consistently clean up in the middle of the park, and when he gets one of those pinpoint crosses right, he’ll start picking up assists with ease.

MF Bukayo Saka, 8 — Saka was boxed out for long spells in the first half, but in the second he offered up a moment of magic by starting and ending a great passage of play to open the scoring.

MF Martin Odegaard, 6 — Had some nice ideas but only really came into the game and became effective once the win was signed, sealed and delivered.

MF Emile Smith Rowe, 7 — The Englishman is still a bit green when running into the final third, yet he’s still one of Arsenal’s most dangerous attacking stars thanks to how relentless he is.

FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 5 — The veteran had an afternoon to forget, with his most notable contribution being missing an absolute sitter from 2 yards out in the 41st minute.

Substitutes

MF Mohamed Elneny, N/A — Served as a capable midfield presence to help the minutes tick by before the full-time whistle blew.

FW Gabriel Martinelli, 7 — The youngster took his opportunity off the bench with both hands by lifting a lovely volley past the keeper to make it 2-0 just moments after entering the game.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, N/A — Held the ball up well when coming on and even had a few half chances that didn’t quite fall his way.

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